Saturday, 15 June 2019

Edwin Emmanuel Bradford


A Brief Biographical Sketch of
Reverend Edwin Emmanuel Bradford (1860-1944)
Barry Van-Asten

The poets loved their dreams – I see
How sweet, how perfect is the real!
(O Love, my Love. Sonnets, Songs and Ballads. 1908)


Let lover seek his mate, then side by side
Let them beget fair dreams – an offspring glorified!
[The Younger Eros. Lays of Love and Life. 1916]

To those unfamiliar with the name of Edwin Emmanuel Bradford, it is enough to say he was a minor poet in the uranian school of poetry which centred around the Oxford colleges and an Anglo-Catholic who became a Modernist clergyman and a sense of satisfaction will no doubt be achieved. But to those few who appreciate Bradford’s poetry a little more than the average versifier’s flourishes upon the sanctity of the cult of boy-love, he is a greatly understated poet with very scarce biographical details concerning his life and loves. It is with this in mind that I set out to uncover a few facts about his life and parentage, some surprising, which may go a little way in explaining certain psychological traits and maybe some time in the future an in-depth work on Bradford will appear.

Edwin Emmanuel Bradford was born in Newton Abbot, Devonshire in 1860 to parents Edwin Greenslade Bradford and Maria Wellman. His father, Edwin Greenslade Bradford was born in Wolborough, Devonshire in 1818 (Baptised 27th February) and his occupation was a goldsmith and jeweller, having premises at 8 the Strand, Torquay (1).
Maria Wellman was born in 1820 (Christened 24th December) at Hawkchurch in Dorset. She died in 1873 in Newton Abbot, Devonshire. Edwin and Maria were married in 1844 at Axminster in Devon.
Edwin Emmanuel Bradford was Baptised at St. Luke’s Church, Warren Hill, Torquay and he was the youngest of eight children born to Edwin Greenslade and Maria, all born in Newton Abbot, Devonshire: Ella Maria Bradford (b 1845), Amelia Hembrew Bradford (b 1846), Edwin Reginald Bradford (1849-1857), Henry Louis Bradford (b 1850), George Frank Bradford (b 1851) (2), Ada Bessie Bradford (b 1854), Rosa Kate Bradford (b 1856) and Edwin Emmanuel (b 1860).
In the 1851 census Edwin G Bradford is living in Tormoham, Devonshire (Newton Abbot) – Victoria Parade. He is 33 years old and a ‘goldsmith and watch maker’. With him is his wife Maria, 28 years old, daughters Ella M, 6 years old and Amelia H, 4 years old and his two sons, Edwin R, aged 2 and Henry L, aged 1.
In the 1871 census at the same address, Edwin G is listed as a ‘silversmith’ and Ella and Amelia are both ‘assistants’ (at their father’s jewellery shop) and there have been three new additions to the family: Ada B, aged 15, Rosa K, aged 14 and Edwin E, aged 5. They have two servants named: Emma Searle, aged 36 from Southampton, and Mary Pike, 21 from Kenton, Devonshire.
Edwin Emmanuel attended Castle College School in Torquay before going up to Exeter College, Oxford, matriculating on 20th October 1881 at the age of 21. He was awarded a 3rd Class Hons B.A. in Theology in 1884 and an M.A. in 1901, B.D. (Bachelor of Divinity) in 1904 and D.D. (Doctor of Divinity) in 1912.
In 1884 he was appointed Deacon and ordained as a Priest the following year at St. Alban’s Cathedral. He held curacies at High Ongar, Essex (1884-1886), Walthamstow (1886-1887) and was assistant Chaplain at the Anglican Church in St. Petersburg (1887-1889) and at St. George’s Church, Rue Auguste Vecquerie, Paris (1890-1897) (3). He also held curacies at Eton (1899-1905) and Upwell (1905-1909) before becoming Vicar of Holy Trinity Church, Nordelph in Norfolk from 1909 until his death in 1944.


‘My heart went out to Montague;
Did his respond to mine?
His smile said “Yes;” his eyes did too.
But still I sought a sign.
I sought a sign the whole day through,
But ‘twas not till the night I knew.
And how did I divine?
By this – that when we bade adieu
One moment more than others do
He left his hand in mine.
‘Twas as we stood alone, we two,
Beneath the stars with none to view,
For a moment more than others do
He left his hand in mine.’

[The Romance of Youth and Other Poems. 1920]


Edwin Emmanuel was thirteen years old when his mother Maria died in September 1873. Edwin’s father, who by all accounts had been a devoted husband, became increasingly depressed after the loss of his wife and his mind became gradually unbalanced. He succumbed to suicidal thoughts and sometime around midnight of Saturday 16th May 1874, he took his own life by cutting his throat with a bread knife; he was fifty-seven years old. This double tragedy must have affected young Edwin terribly. Details about the death can be found in the Torquay Times and South Devon Advertiser, dated Saturday 23rd May 1874 and I make no apology for producing it in full as it is interesting in the facts it reveals about Edwin Greenslade and his father James Bradford:

‘Suicide of Torquay Tradesman Mr. Edwin Greenslade Bradford, jeweller, of the Strand, had committed suicide by cutting his throat with a bread knife late the previous night or early the same morning. The inquest was held at the residence of the deceased on Monday afternoon, [Monday 18th May 1874] before Mr. H. Michaelmore, coroner. The Jury composed as follows: Mr H Crockwell (Foreman), and Messers J C Wreyford, G Turner, J Fogan, Jas Blackmore, J Hammick, R Bartlett, P Michaelmore, C Narracott, G Clow, W D Marler, W Watson jun. and Capt. Graham. The Jury having viewed the body, the following evidence was adduced: - Jane Maria Redway, a domestic servant, said she lived with the deceased, and about quarter to seven on Sunday morning she was coming towards the landing, and had gone up three stairs, when she saw the body of her master lying along the landing covered in blood. She immediately went back again and told Miss Bradford [either Ella or Amelia Bradford who were recorded as ‘assistants’ in the 1871 census]. After the body was removed she found the knife, and she saw it on the table the previous night at supper time. She removed the supper things at half-past six on Sunday morning, and when she did so the knife was not there. It was almost directly afterwards that she approached the landing and discovered the body of the deceased. She had been in his service seven weeks, but during that time she had not noticed anything peculiar about him. He went to bed about nine O’clock on Saturday night, and after that she saw him; she asked him if he was comfortable and if the fire was all right, and he said it was. His brother, Mr Denis Bradford, was with him at the time, and stopped talking to him until ten. On the previous Tuesday he said something to one of his daughters which led them to think he was out of his mind, and they gave him a sleeping draught to pass it off. She had heard Miss Bradford say she heard some one go downstairs between eleven and twelve O’clock on Saturday night, and she now thought it must have been her father. – Mr Denis John Bradford, jeweller, of Victoria Parade, said he was the brother of the deceased who was 57 years of age. He had been in the habit of frequently visiting the deceased since his wife’s death in September last, and there could be no doubt he had much altered since then. He (witness) came up to his house about nine O’clock on Saturday night, and then found him in bed. He had been suffering for several months past from a pain in his throat, and during their conversation he said that the pain was going from his throat to his head. He said nothing, however, which led him to think he was premeditating destruction. He left him within a few minutes of ten O’clock still in bed. He never complained of anyone ill-treating him, or of his being in difficulties with regard to money matters. He had, however, often since his wife’s death, said he heard a voice speaking to him and saying, “what are you doing here? One half of you is buried in the grave.” During his wife’s life she and the deceased lived on the most affectionate terms. (Mr Bradford gave his evidence under the influence of much emotion.) – Dr Charles Radclyffe Hall said he had known the deceased for upwards of twenty years, and during the last year and a half he had been in occasional attendance upon him. He had been suffering from general feebleness of health and relaxed throat. He had had impressions that the sensation to his ears and nostrils in consequence would lead to something serious, but he told him that was a mistake. He had always been depressed about his health, and since his wife’s death he had been much more depressed. He had just recovered from a slight attack of pleurisy, and he advised him that he would soon get well if he could get a change of scene. He was only waiting for the west winds to pass away, when he was to go away for a time to renovate his health. On the previous Tuesday witness called, and Miss Bradford told him that her father, who was out at the time, had not slept for ten nights. He left a prescription for a sleeping draught, which was given the deceased, and the draught was repeated every night. The deceased appeared refreshed in consequence, and when witness saw him on Saturday he was particularly bright and cheerful. He told him then that there was nothing the matter with him which a change would not remedy. The last time he saw him was on Saturday evening. He (witness) was riding on horseback, and as he passed deceased, who was walking in the Torbay Road, he nodded to witness in an unusually cheerful manner for him. Miss Bradford had mentioned to him that her father said the sleeping draught benefited him, and made her promise that, if he went out of his mind, she would not have him sent to an asylum. – Mr Wm. Pollard, surgeon, said he was called at half-past seven on Sunday morning, to come to the house of the deceased at once. On arriving he was told by Miss Bradford that her father had killed himself. He found him lying on his back on the landing on the first flight of stairs. He examined him, and found he was dead, with his throat cut. The knife was lying close by his right hand, as if it had just been dropped. The wound in the throat was just such as that which a man would inflict on himself. He attended deceased previous to his wife’s death, but beyond holding exaggerated ideas of the complaint in his throat he had not noticed anything peculiar about him. There was an immense gash in the throat. The body was quite cold, and the deceased must have been dead many hours. The deed was no doubt committed between eleven and twelve the previous night. The deceased was in his shirt and stockings. He knew that his father was once placed under restraint for insanity, and that he died in a lunatic asylum. – The coroner said he had called before the Jury what he hoped they would consider sufficient evidence to prove that the deceased was not in a right state of mind at the time the deed was committed. He wished to spare the members of the family as much as possible and unless the Jury wished, he did not propose to call any more of them. The Jury concurred in these remarks, and immediately returned a verdict of Temporary Insanity. The fees were given, through Sergt. Ockford, to the Torbay Infirmary. The funeral took place on Wednesday morning [20th May 1874] in the Torquay Cemetery. Mr H Crockwell was the undertaker.’


And when our lips meet at a time like this
It is our souls and not our mouths that kiss!
[Childhood and Age. In Quest of Love and Other Poems. 1913]

Edwin Emmanuel Bradford wrote several volumes of poetry which reflected his fatal allure for young adolescent boys. He is often classified as a uranian poet, a group of Victorian Oxford undergraduates who mainly studied Classics and wrote homoerotic verse with themes of Ancient Greece and distinctly saccharine sentimentality. Bradford however, moves away from the statuesque gods of antiquity and gazes upon the lusty rustic youths who work the fields and forests, not the pre-pubescent cherubs worshipped by certain uranians since William Johnson Cory’s ‘Ionica’ in 1858; Bradford’s erotic motivation, not unlike Wilde, is a Platonic sense of devotion upon the lower class youth who sweats and toils for his living. In his poetry, Bradford succumbs to these not so delicate creatures and gives his heart freely and celebrates the purity, strength and beauty of the young adolescent males to whom he is attracted with a romantic sense of chivalry. Many of his poems are written in the narrative ballad style which one sees in Browning and the poet declares his infatuations with no sense of shame. His first volume of poems, ‘Sonnets, Songs and Ballads’ (1908) has many fine examples of his uranian yearnings as in ‘Sundered’ where ‘the aching pain of that long, long night / will last till my life is o’er!’ and in ‘Hush! Speak no more’ where Bradford asks ‘how can I love you as you are while / true to him I lost?’ and again in ‘Side to Side’ where he reveals that ‘dark suspicion marked us out / as guilty of a ruthless crime, / and worthy but to die!

‘“Passing the love of women!” Harsh and rude
This strikes on modern ears, but even yet
There’s something forceful in’t, and in the mood
We feel it still. When passion’s sun is set,
And years have cooled the fever in the blood,
The friend is all in all! Who that has met
The “one man in a thousand” can forget
His firm, strong love? He calls not evil good,
As women do to save the cherished name
Of one they honour, but more noble far,
He faces naked Truth – sees all that shame
Hides from the world, and takes us as we are;
And fearing not our deepest stains to scan
Beneath the sinner sees and loves the man!’

[Passing the Love of Women. Sonnets, Songs and Ballads. 1908]

Many of Bradford’s poems take the active as opposed to the passive form, we enter into a world in which a scene is unfolding and again we see Bradford’s quest for a spiritual love in another sonnet which seems to awaken a religious ecstasy in the poet:

The Child Divine

‘Methought I saw in visions of the night
The Child Divine, concealed in mortal guise:
His head was bare, no rays of heavenly light
Crowned Him divine, but when His shining eyes
One moment met mine own, I saw them bright
With more than human love: the starry skies,
The world around, all faded from my sight,
And I was lost in heavenly ecstasies!
Since then I seek Him. Here and there I find
In one His smile, in one His tone of voice,
And in a third signs of His mighty mind;
Then I look up, take courage, and rejoice.
But when in one I see revealed His Heart,
Him from my love nor death nor hell can part!’

In another volume of poetry, ‘In Quest of Love and Other Poems’ (1913) the poet takes on the mantle of Tennyson in the title poem which runs to 166 four line stanzas in seventeen parts; the poem expresses Bradford’s ideal of perfection and beauty in the form of youth which speaks of love of various kinds in different nations:

‘My friend, a merry Irish boy,
Made sport of all. In careless play
We passed the livelong summer’s day,
And love seemed but an idle toy.

But once, as on the sands we lay,
We kissed: and thereupon a flame
Of passion pure that knows no shame
Showed Love full-grown. March passed to May

Without an April. Life became
Like the rich rapture of a song
That throbs with ecstasy. Not long
Could bliss like that endure. A name

Alone remains. First of the throng
That Love has lightened, first and last
Love of any boyhood, he has passed
Beyond the reach of change or wrong.’

[In Quest of Love]

Bradford’s Platonic desire of youth manifests fully in the poem ‘Free Love’ which begins:

‘A lover of woman must learn to be
Content with one, and leave the rest;
But a lover of lads can do like me –
Make love to a hundred equally
And still love one the best.’

The poem ends triumphantly – ‘I’ve kissed young boys in dozens!’ But in the collection ‘Lays of Love and Life’ (1916), the poem ‘No Love is Carnal’ makes it quite clear that his fascination for young boys is purely beyond the physical intimacy –

‘Who loves the body only? Grind it small,
Bring him the bloody mass – give him the whole.
Is he content? Nay, when he has it all,
All is but naught without the informing soul.’

We get the impression of Houseman in the poem ‘When I went a-walking’, with its ‘I thought of him all day, / and dreamed of him all night’ and perhaps more so in the poem ‘Take it, lad, or leave it!’ with its melancholy acceptance of love as an offering –

‘Here’s a loyal and loving heart,
Take it, lad, or leave it.
Say the word before we part –
Take it, lad, or leave it.
Hoity toity! where’s the use
Of playing with me fast and loose?
Kiss – or kick me if you choose.
Take it, lad, or leave it!

All I have is freely yours,
Take it, lad, or leave it.
Love – or turn me out of doors!
Take it, lad, or leave it.
Shilly-shally, yes and no,
Won’t win a friend or check a foe.
Hold my heart, or let it go –
Take it, lad, or leave it!’

In the 1920 collection ‘The Romance of Youth and Other Poems’ the poet says it is ‘boyhood I worship rather than the boy’ [‘Boyhood’].

We get another glimpse of Bradford from one of our finest poets for on Sunday 8th December 1935 the poet John Betjeman spent a delightful day with E E Bradford in Nordelph, and wrote the following day in his journal: ‘Nordelph is miles away in the Norfolk fens, a village of two-storey houses most of them sloping on unsafe foundations strung about with telegraph poles and electric poles. Had inestimable privilege of spending Sunday with the Reverend E E Bradford DD, author of Passing the Love of Women and many other volumes of verse. He had been vicar of Nordelph since 1917 [sic] and is now 75. A modernist, but likes ritual. Last boyfriend called Edmund. Not had a boyfriend for 30 years. V happy with Nordelph. A Saint & thinks laws against sexuality wicked cruel and out of date. Said the Queen asked for one of his books. Obviously a joke played on him poor old thing. Got his DD for proving St Paul contradicts himself on the subject of free will. Advocates birth control and says that logically Onan is a must… should be permitted in public schools. Service fairly well attended. Children get a penny for coming, kept in little boxes in a draw of his desk. Plays organ himself. Candles on red altar, black cloths. All candles lighted. Sermon v abstruse and clever on certainty of God. Talked of Julian Huxley – Cold supper at the vicarage. Felt the better for seeing such a saintly and sweet little man… Surely never did a bad thing in his life.’ (4)

In the 1911 census Edwin Emmanuel Bradford is at Nordelph, aged 50 and single, a ‘clergyman established church’ and he has one servant named Gertrude Mary Bellamy, aged 27 from Lake’s End, Christelwich, Upwell.

Reverend E E Bradford died on Monday 7th February 1944 and the Probate, dated 13th May 1944 names the beneficiary as Sarah Esther Beales who was his housekeeper to whom he left his property and belongings. He will be remembered as a gentle man who wrote of the elevated passion that exists between man and boy beyond the physical exuberance of intimacies that in today’s world are greatly misunderstood.

‘He that can see in Love impurity
In any form, or in the least degree –
Love, naked, shameless, wild – no saint is he,
But a low fool, or a cold-blooded sot.’

[Pure Love. In Quest of Love and Other Poems. 1913]


  1. Edwin Greenslade’s brothers James (1814-1879) and Denis (1826-1911) had a watchmaker and jewellery business called ‘Bradford Brothers’ at 4 Victoria Parade, Torquay, and at 7 Victoria Parade was James Bradford, watchmaker and jeweller (this was Edwin Greenslade’s father James Bradford (1783-1851?). [White’s Directory of Devon. 1850] James was christened on 24th February 1783 at Witheridge, Devonshire, the son of William and Elinor Bradford. James married Betty Bowbeer on 25th March 1813 in Wolborough, Devonshire. Betty died in 1832 and was buried on 8th May of that year in Wolborough. In the 1851 census James Bradford is at Tormohan, Devon (Newton Abbot) living at Victoria Parade. He is 71 years old (born in Witheridge, Devonshire) and a widower. His profession is ‘watch manufactory’. Living with him is his daughter Eliza, 40 years old and unmarried, who is an ‘assistant in jeweller’s shop’, and his son Denis, aged 23 and unmarried. He is a jeweller also. With them is a servant named Mary Dennis, aged 23 from Brixham, Devonshire.
  2. George Frank Bradford went up to Exeter College, Oxford, matriculating on 19th January 1872, aged 20, graduating with a B.A. in 1876. In the 1911 census he is single and living in Poole, Parkstone, Dorsetshire as a School Master. He is 59 years old and with him is his sister Ada Bessie, single and 56 years old. There is also one servant named May Philpott, 18 years old from Southampton.
  3. Edwin was co-Chaplain in Paris with his friend and fellow uranian, Rev. S. E. Cottam (1863-1943) whom he met at Oxford. Samuel Elsworth Cottam went up to Exeter College, Oxford, matriculating on 4th June 1881, aged 17 and graduating with his B.A. in 1885. Cottam published his collection of verse ‘Cameos of Boyhood and Other Poems’ in 1930.
  4. John Betjeman. Diary entry for Monday 9th December 1935.

Saturday, 4 May 2019


 At the end of the village of Authuille, the Thiepval
monument can be seen on the right hand side. It was
here that I found some bone in the field behind the post
and respectfully placed it back where I found it.


Set in the beautiful landscape of the Ancre Valley the graves of Authuille Military Cemetery stand on a gentle slope down towards the Ancre River. I visited this lonely and tranquil spot around eight-thirty in the evening and stayed for almost an hour, watching the cows in the fields beyond and listening to the haunting screech of the peacocks, the drumming of the woodpecker and a lone, distant cuckoo. As it grew darker the bats began to swoop around me and I felt an immeasurable sadness for the fallen warriors in this peaceful glade as if drawn here – it remains my favourite cemetery and although one is quite alone amongst the stones there is a sense that one is not really alone. 

The cemetery was begun in August 1915 and used until December 1916 by field ambulances which brought the dead from the trenches at Thiepval. The cemetery contains 451 British graves, 14 Indian and 3 South African; many of the dead are from units in the 32nd, 36th (Ulster) and 49th (West Riding) Divisions which were key units in the fighting around Thiepval in July 1916. 

Other graves are also from the 51st (Highland) Division which held the trenches at Thiepval towards the end of 1915. The bell of the village church at Authuille struck the hour and half-hour intervals and as I was staying in the village near the church on rue d’Albert, the sound seemed somewhat comforting.


Walking from Authuille following the River Ancre towards Crucifix Corner one finds Blighty Valley Cemetery on the left, which was a short distance from the front line and regularly shelled. A light railway was laid along its length by the Royal Engineers after the commencement of the Somme battle and many units bivouacked here on their way to the trenches. 

The cemetery was begun in the summer of 1916 and positioned a short distance from the Authuille – Aveluy road. There were originally 223 graves (now plot 1) which was extended after the war from surrounding battlefields and the majority of the men fell on 1st July 1916. Today it holds 993 British, 2 Australian and 2 Canadian; there are 532 unknown graves and 24 special memorials.

Shell found near to Blighty Valley

Crucifix Corner


Walking from Crucifix Corner and skirting Authuille Wood which although beautiful has an eerie sense about it, one soon gets a feel of the terrible fighting that occurred in these woods and lanes when one discovers the barbed wire piquet posts in hedgerows and out of the way places, still used by farmers today; continue on and one approaches Lonsdale Cemetery, originally known as Lonsdale Number 1 which contained 96 graves (now plot 1); it was enlarged after the war to contain 1,515 British and 4 Australians; over half are unknown with special memorials to 22 British soldiers. Many of the graves are from 1st July 1916 from the fierce fighting around Leipzig Redoubt (not far from the cemetery if one continues to walk in the direction of Thiepval) and Nab Valley which one will also pass. Look out for the grave of Sgt James Yuill Turnbull of the 17th Highland Light Infantry who won a posthumous Victoria Cross in the 1st July attack on the Leipzig Redoubt.


Walking towards Thiepval with the monument in the distance I suddenly glanced into the field and saw a large piece of iron shrapnel, I held it in my hands knowing it had lain in the ground for over a century and that my hand was the first to touch it; it may even of been the instrument of some poor soldier’s death. (I carried the shrapnel with me for the rest of the battlefield explorations as a reminder for it held great ‘energy’ and later, while in the Church of Saint John the Baptist, Arras, the shrapnel fragment was given to an old French man who guides visitors around the church and whose father was in the Great War at the Battle of the Somme and survived; there were tears in his eyes as he accepted it!)

Built upon the ruins of a chateau which became part of the front line, the village of Thiepval was taken in September 1916 and very little remained of the it. The memorial designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens and finished in 1932 commemorates the missing with no known grave (approximately half of the 150,000 British soldiers who died on the Somme in 1916). 

The memorial now commemorates more than 72,000 service men of the Army, Royal Naval Division and South African. At the rear of the monument is the Thiepval Anglo-French Cemetery containing 300 unknown British soldiers and 300 unknown French soldiers.


A short walk from the Thiepval memorial is Connaught Cemetery which stands a little in front of the British front line of July 1916. Looking across to Mill Road Cemetery which lies opposite you can get a sense of how close the German front line was. Connaught Cemetery was begun in late autumn of 1916 as the fighting of the Ancre Heights moved towards Grandcourt. After the war there were 228 graves (now plot 1) which was extended to hold 1,278 British soldiers, 642 of which are unknown and there are 7 special memorials. Many of the graves include the heavy losses by the 36th (Ulster) and 49th (Wesr Riding) Divisions around Thiepval.


Almost opposite Connaught Cemetery is Mill Road Cemetery which was near to the German front line on 1st July 1916. There are 1,304 graves with 6 special memorials, 815 of the total graves are unknown. The cemetery is unique that in the centre you will find a series of flat graves due to the many tunnels and dugouts from the German front line still in existence which causes subsidence. In the distance the Ulster Tower comes into view.


The Ulster Tower is a copy of Helen’s Tower at Clandeboyne near Belfast where during 1914 some units of the 36th Division trained. The Tower was built after the war as a memorial to those men of the division who died on the Western Front, especially around Thiepval in 1st July. The Tower stands on what was the front line German trench attacked by the 9th Royal Irish Rifles. Walking towards the gift shop at the rear one notices the many shells stacked up, collected from the ‘Iron Harvest’ and a visit to the tea room should not be missed as I had the best cup of tea in all of France there! Also note that not far along a farm track as yo leave the Tower there are the remains of a German observation post which the Ulstermen referred to as the ‘Pope’s Nose’.

Some of the 'Iron Harvest' at the Ulster Tower


This massive mine crater was blown on 1st July 1916 when 60,000 lb of explosive was detonated under the German position at Sausage Valley. Richard Dunning, a British man, bought the site in 1978 and today the crater is preserved. Walking from the crater towards Authuille (via Crucifix Corner) one can see the distinctive golden glow from the statue of the Virgin (sculpted by Albert Rose) atop the neo-byzantine Basilica Notre-Dame de Brebieres in Albert; during the conflict there was much destruction of the Basilica and the Virgin famously leaned to one side and was known as the Leaning Virgin (take the opportunity to visit if you are able). A short detour from the road takes one to Ovillers Military Cemetery.


On 1st July 1916 the 8th attacked Ovillers and the 34th La Boisselle yet both villages remained in German hands. By 4th July the 19th (Western) Division had cleared La Boisselle and on the 7th July, the 12th (Eastern) and 25th Divisions gained part of Ovillers and the village was cleared by the 48th (South Midland) Division on 17th July. Unfortunately both villages were lost to the German advance in March 1918 but were re-taken on the following 24th August by 38th (Welsh) Division. The cemetery was begun behind a dressing station before the capture of Ovillers and used until March 1917. The cemetery contained 143 graves which was increased after the war to 3,440 Commonwealth Servicemen, 2,480 of which are unidentified. There are also 120 French war graves. I sheltered here from the heavy rain that suddenly burst upon me and as the sun poured forth just as quickly I walked solemnly between the wet graves that have seen many a summer and winter come and go.


The original cemetery (now plot 1) was started by V Corps in the spring of 1917 and was known as the Ancre River Number 1 British Cemetery. It contained 517 graves which were mostly from the 36th (Ulster) and 63rd (Royal Naval) Divisions. The cemetery was expanded after the war to include 1,965 graves from the Ancre Valley battlefield and today there are 2,446 British burials, 32 Newfoundland, 2 New Zealand and 1 South African. Around half of the total graves are unknown and there are 49 special memorials. Standing at the back of the cemetery one is looking out towards no-man’s land where the German trenches were situated on the high ground to the right. Later returning from Beaucourt there appeared after a downpour a beautiful rainbow above the cemetery.

Shell found on the way to Beaumont-Hamel


Frankfurt Trench with New Munich Trench in the distance

This cemetery is situated near the village of Beaumont-Hamel which was attacked by 29th Division on 1st July 1916 but not held; it was attacked again and taken on 13th November 1916 by 51st (Highland) and 63rd (Royal Naval) Divisions. The cemetery stands upon the German trench system which they occupied until their retreat in early 1917. The cemetery was made by V Corps after that retreat when V Corp units cleared the Ancre battlefield. This cemetery was also known as V Corps Cemetery Number 11. There are over 150 graves located here from the war, many of which are unidentified. Standing here on a lovely sunny day with the gentle breeze in your face and skylarks singing overhead, it is hard to believe that just over a century ago it was the scene of such carnage!


In view of Frankfurt Trench Cemetery is the New Munich Trench Cemetery, a short walk away.  The Munich Trench was occupied by 51st (Highland) Division on 15th November 1916 and the New Munich Trench was dug the day before on 14th November by the 2/2nd Highland Field Company and the Company of 8th Royal Scots and lengthened by the 8th Devons in December. The cemetery was made by V Corps in spring 1917 and was also known as V Corps British Cemetery Number 25. It held almost 150 graves during the war with almost 20 unidentified, soldiers which fell between November 1916 or January 1917, the majority of which belonging to the 10/11th , 16th or 17th Highland Light Infantry. From the New Munich Trench Cemetery I descended into the village of Beaucourt where a German Pill Box can still be seen and a memorial to the Royal Naval Division. Further on along the road to Authuille can be seen the old, disused and now derelict Beaumont-Hamel Railway Station which played its part during the war carrying supplies and troops to the front.

Shell seen on the way to Newfoundland-Beaumont Hamel memorial

Trench Mortar shell found on way to Newfoundland-Beaumont
Hamel Memorial


Trenches at Newfoundland-Beaumont Hamel Memorial

Walking towards Newfoundland-Beaumont Hamel Memorial from Authille there is a track across farmland which has some stunning views and some wonderful glimpses of wildlife – hares, dears and many different birds but all this competes with the startling juxtaposition of war when suddenly shells appear at the side of the track, turned up like turnips ploughed by the farmers, pieces of iron and I even found a bullet lying on top of the soil!

The Caribou

On 1st July 1916, the 1st Battalion of the Newfoundland Regiment suffered 684 casualties here and after the war the regimental chaplain, Tom Nangle purchased the site to erect a memorial to the fallen. 

It is the largest extent of battlefield preserved on the Somme and has trench systems still intact, including the German front line trenches. In the centre of the Newfoundland Park is the statue of the caribou, the symbol of the Regiment and the work of the British sculptor Basil Gotto.


Located in Newfoundland-Beaumont Hamel Memorial Park is the cemetery of Y Ravine, one of the three military cemeteries in the park. Walking through what was no man’s land towards the German trenches, the cemetery comes into view after passing the Danger Tree, a petrified tree close to the Wellington Trench. 

The Danger Tree

Behind the Y Ravine Cemetery, about one-hundred metres was the German front line so the cemetery actually lies in no man’s land and holds many of the men killed on 1st July 1916. There are 328 British graves, 38 Newfoundland and 61 special memorials. Continuing the walk uphill towards the German front line one passes the monument to the 51st (Highland) Division and Hunter’s Cemetery at the upper end of Y Ravine. The cemetery is a large shell hole containing 46 soldiers of the 51st Division who fell during the capture of Beaumont-Hamel on 13th November 1916 and buried after the battle. Further along the path is Hawthorn Ridge Number 2 Cemetery.


Created by V Corps after the clearance of the Ancre Valley battlefield in the spring of 1917; most of the 214 graves are those of soldiers who died on 1st July 1916. 23 are British and the rest are Newfoundland.